Archive | Life as a Writer

Tough Mudder Tomorrow!

I gave myself a few mornings off this week. I’ve been training really hard for this race I’m doing tomorrow, and decided that I needed the extra rest to be at the top of my game.

In case you haven’t heard me yammer on about this race yet, let me tell you a little about it. It’s a 10-mile obstacle course with the tag line “quite possibly the toughest event on the planet.” Now, I have no frame of reference for the validity of that claim, but I do know there will be 12 different obstacles, some of which involve electricity, fire, dumpsters filled with ice water and barbed wire. I’ve been training for a long time.

My partner for the race (who also happens to be in my writing group – see how I always bring it back to the writing?) is my friend Alex. She and I just checked into our hotel. It’s a Ramada, so you know it’s pretty nice. It’s 11pm, and way past my bed time, but I’m too excited (nervous?) to sleep yet.

Our start time is 11am. 12 hours to go – yikes. We’re hoping to finish by 4, and I honestly don’t know if that’s optimistic or if we’ll finish way before that.

Daniel and my mom are meeting us back at the hotel with the kids. We decided it wasn’t worth the entrance fee to have to chase them through a crowd of adrenaline junkies. As much as I would have loved to have them at the finish line, I’ll settle for beer and a burger in beautiful downtown Temecula.

So wish me luck.
I’ll post some pictures as soon as I’m able.

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Pages Are Flying

I’ve hit a groove with my early morning writing. My alarm goes off at 5am, it takes me about 10 minutes to get upstairs and make coffee (I move really slowly that early in the morning), and then I write one full page in my journal, which takes about 15 minutes, and then I write for an hour. At 6:30 I head down to get the kids up and in the shower – time to start the day.

Since writing about my blog’s fourth birthday, and reflecting on how I used to write so much more (in basic volume), I’ve tried treating my fiction like I treat the writing I do at my job. I get up when I say I will and just know I have to hit 500 words in an hour. Instead of laboring over the parts I know need polishing, I skim ahead to the section where I actually need new prose and just start writing.

It’s been kind of amazing. 500 words a day, and I’ve been doing it 6 days a week for three weeks now – yes, I’m even getting my lazy butt out of bed on Saturdays. That’s 3,ooo words a week for the math-challenged. At this rate I can absolutely finish this draft before the end of the year. It won’t be perfect, but it will be done, and that fact alone is enough to keep me motivated to get out of bed before the sun comes up.

The pages are flying and it is so very satisfying.

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Remote Working

One of the perks of my job is that I work remotely. I have often said how cool it is that I can take my work with me anywhere, but the truth is I never do. Because if I’m going somewhere it’s usually because I don’t want to be working. I’m am not the girl you see sitting by the pool with her laptop.

Except maybe, this week, I am.

My mom has a show opening at a gallery in the desert this Friday and I really want to go. The party starts at 6 and it’s a 3 hour drive (or 5 in traffic), so it would have meant leaving after lunch and using some vacation time, but instead I’m going to flex my remote-worker muscle.

Our thinking is that we will drive out early in the morning. We will leave at 6am, and by 9am I should be happily settled in to some public place with free wi-fi. Eventually I will be in our hotel room, or even (we’ll see) by the pool. Then, come the end of the day, I will put on my art-show-opening fancies and have a lovely night with my momma.

And then Saturday morning I plan to wake up early enough to work on my novel while I watch the sun come up over the desert. I’ve been dying for some desert time. It’s going to be a great (if short) trip.

Here is a sample of mom’s sculpture. You can see more of her work on her website. 


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Best Neighbors Ever

My neighbors moved out last weekend. They were the best neighbors ever and I miss them terribly already. It’s hard to say how this development will affect the dynamics of our block. You see – we have (had?) the coolest block in LA.

Celeste was six months old when we moved in and there were no other kids, but in the six years since then seven other kids have been born onto our tiny cul-de-sac. We call Celeste the Sheriff, as she makes sure the other kids stay in line. We meet up at the end of the street each night and the parents hang out while the kids ride scooters and bikes, or draw with chalk. It’s an awesome way to end the day. But now the number of kids has been reduced by two.

And since I always brings things back to the writing with this blog, it’s worth noting that the mom of that household is also my soon-to-be publisher. Elisa published a book about New Mexico a couple years ago. It’s not your usual travel guide, but instead outlines the cultural things you’ll see when you nmbookbuyvisit – things that you won’t find in a traditional where-to-eat-sleep-and-stuff-your-face guide. Like bolo ties and coyote fences. Well, as soon as she mentioned to me that she wanted to do California next, but in two books – north and south, I pretty much pestered her until she agreed to let me write Northern California, which she did, on the condition that Southern California would come out first.

Originally slated to come out late 2012, the Southern California edition was slightly delayed by the birth of their second child and the aforementioned moving, but I believe it’s at the printers and should be coming to a store near you soon.

And Northern California is close on its heels. We still have some photography that needs to be done, but the manuscript is complete. Frankly, I don’t care when it comes out. It was so much fun to write, and it’s not like Northern California is going anywhere. I sincerely hope there is a book tour for that one. It will be a great excuse to go spend some time with old friends.

In the meantime I will gaze wistfully from our kitchen window at the empty parking spot across the street. They will be missed.

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A journalist friend of mine emailed me earlier this week to tell me about the launch of Beacon, a new publication platform she’s a part of. I opened and read her email immediately because 1) she’s a great writer and 2) she manages to get herself into some seriously sticky situations while investigating her stories so her material is usually pretty juicy.

Most writers complain about not getting paid enough, but Jean Guerrero (that’s her name) and her fellow investigative journalists win this one hands down. They are getting paid next to nothing for pieces that take weeks of perilous work to research.

Beacon, it turns out, is attempting to solve the problem with a subscription-based news service. Here’s what Jean had to say about it:

Beacon is this incredible new journalism platform by Dan Fletcher, the creator of Time Magazine’s NewsFeed and a former managing editor at Facebook, meant to change the fact that some of the best reporters today risk their lives in war zones just to make $70 for a single article — all thanks to the current failing business model of journalism.  I’m one of 30 journalists worldwide that you can directly subscribe to on Beacon.  By subscribing to me for $5 a month (with a free trial and easy cancellation any time), you instantly get access to ALL of the OTHER great writers on Beacon, as well.  I’ll be covering human rights issues in Latin America — the kind of really human-focused, heartbreaking stuff that I couldn’t cover for a news corp that relied on advertisers’ dollars.

Support quality investigative reporting for $5 a month?

Yes, thank you.


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Of Wine and Zoloft

I have a question.

I was at a doctor appointment (my GP) last week and happened to mention that I was feeling tense, stressed. I have a lot shit going on. I worked a 15-hour day yesterday, all in. Between family, and work, and writing, and exercise. Life is busy.

Well the doc whipped out her prescription pad and wrote me  a note for Zoloft. Just like that. I had no idea it was so easy.

The question is – should I take it?

Part of me is thinking why not? If I have the option to take the edge off life, to calm this buzzing that has me always a little tense, why would I not give myself that rest?

On the other hand, since when do I need medication just to get through the day? Isn’t that what alcohol is for? Just kidding. But seriously, if my life has me that stressed out, shouldn’t I try to make some changes that would help feel a little calmer without the meds?

I don’t know. I guess I worry it might crush my creative drive, or kill that basic artistic dissatisfaction that keeps me writing. I really don’t feel depressed, just stressed out.

So should I stick with wine and try to find myself good therapist?

Or should I take the drugs like its 1999?

Decisions, decisions…


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A Little Older, A Little Wider

It’s been almost a year since I took this full-time writing gig and I have to say, my ass is getting bigger.

I mean it, my pants are all much tighter than they used to be. Last August, while I was moaning and crying about finding enough freelance work to pay the bills, I was also taking an hour every morning to do the Insanity work out, which basically involves jumping around the bedroom like an injured crane on meth. I was great shape, and I felt it.

So now I have all the work I need, but I have to use my new found stable income to go buy some new jeans.

And it’s not like I don’t exercise. I’m running three miles, three times a week, which is more than I have ever run in my whole life, but I also have a serious cookie addiction, and it is finally catching up to me.

This is how it happens folks. A few pounds a year. A new pair of jeans, just one size bigger, every so often.

I keep telling myself it will get easier when the kids are a little older and can get themselves ready for school, but really, that could be another 5 years at least. I dread to think the kind of damage that can be done in that time frame.

I either need to find more time to exercise, or eat fewer cookies.

Neither option is terribly appealing.


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What the Kids Are Reading These Days

A few weeks ago I blogged about this cool, themed birthday party I went to where everyone was supposed to come as their favorite literary character. It was awesome, and the crowd went all out. Did I mention I met Miss Havisham?

calvinoOne of the best parts was that I made a new friend who invited me to join her book club. She told me they only meet a few times a year, because they intentionally pick difficult books that take time to read. I said “sure, sign me up,” and few weeks later I got the email telling me when and where and what: the book this time around was Italo Calvino’s “If On A Winter Night A Traveler.”

As I mentioned in my last post, it was not an easy read, but it was only 250 pages, so I did manage to get through it. It’s actually pretty awesome, and I don’t think I would have read it (and I certainly would not have finished it) if I hadn’t wanted to be able to talk about it with some fellow book nerds.

But, as I learned on Saturday night, there are book nerds, and then there are book nerds (and lest anyone get their feelings hurt, I’d just like to clarify that book nerds are some of my favorite people – this is not meant to be derisive in any way) .

I’m no slouch. I kept up and all, but man, these people know their literature. The evening started out over wine, with a casual conversation in which I learned that one of the other women catalogues her own, personal bookshelf via the dewey decimal system. I was relieved to learn she is a librarian.

The get-to-know-you chatter (this is before we jumped into the book of the night) then turned toward what the kids these days are being taught, which was kind of funny because at 36 I definitely was among the older of the group’s 6 attendees. The librarian said she was concerned that kids aren’t being taught the classics because they’re hard to read, and that, in fact, that is exactly WHY they should be taught. Her fear was that if kids never learn to read hard books, they will never read hard books. They will be condemned to reading the likes of “The Hunger Games.”

hunger gamesAt which point, I felt compelled to step in. “The Hunger Games” rocked. Especially the first one. You could argue against the second two, but that’s a different blog post. I asked her if it wasn’t better to have kids reading something, rather than nothing. I LOVE books, but I’ll tell you, I didn’t read most of what was assigned in high school. Those books were boring. They were dated. I just didn’t care. But I tore up “Interview With a Vampire.”

Now, that said, I do think there is value in reading older books, but what’s wrong with mixing it up with some current fiction? If my English teacher had said to me “Okay, we’re going to read ‘Moby Dick,’ but then we’ll have a little fun with ‘The Lost World,'” I might have hung in there a little tighter with the Dick, because really – that’s a tough one to get through when you’re sixteen and all kinds of impatient.

Anyhow, it just got me to thinking about what people should read, and you know what? I say F the shoulds. Read what ever gets you excited. And that goes double for writers.

However, if you’re interested in learning more about what people do or have done with fiction, you might have to stretch a little outside your comfort zone (which is why I am totally sticking with this group), but if you’re just looking for a good story at bed time, don’t sweat it, I say.

What do you think blogosphere? Should kids have to read hard books so that they learn how? What is the value in reading hard books? What is the value of reading at all? I’m actually really curious to get some opinions.

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If You Don’t Have Anything Good To Say…

I haven’t been blogging. You may have noticed.

The truth is, I have nothing to say lately. Or rather, I have nothing good to say. Work has been busting my hump and I have no time for anything related to my own writing. I have all these ideas in my head, punching me in the back of the skull trying to get out, and it’s giving me a damn headache.

There’s the short story that’s almost ready to go out, the two different articles I’m dying to research and pitch, the novel that I’m trying to finish, and the next novel that I’ve already started outlining because I can’t wait to start writing it. Oh, and this blog. I’m telling you, it’s painfully crowded in my brain.

Getting up at 5am to write gives me about an hour and a half a day, but I don’t motivate to do it every day. Most weeks I average about three mornings a week. Last week it was one. An hour and a half of my own writing all week. When I think about it I get so fucking cranky.

And I’m not complaining about my job. My job is pretty great, insorfar as I get to do a lot of writing (for other people), and I have a lot of flexibility, but it just doesn’t leave much time for the work that keeps me feeling engaged in life, excited to face each day.

I refuse to give up. I will keep plugging away, and maybe I’ll even manage to get over myself, stop complaining and just get up early more often to write. But if I’m a little lax on the blogging trust me – I don’t have anything good to say anyway.

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Yes! National Student Writing Competition

I am super proud to announce that Yes! Magazine is using an article I wrote for them to act as the prompt for their annual Student Writing Competition.

image_previewThe piece dates back to 2010, and outlines a very difficult month in which I impulsively tried to go for thirty-one days without eating, drinking, wearing or washing with any Monsanto products. Being all writerly, I blogged about the adventure, and it got me a lot of attention – some good (I landed an agent), and a lot of it not so good. The biggest lesson I learned was that people do not take their food politics lightly.

Seeing this article take on a new life has brought up some old anxiety that is reminding me of all the reasons I have since distanced myself from the project:

1. I got my very own angry stalker. A very nasty man (?) posted repeatedly on my blog using all caps, and words I will never repeat. The same individual sent frequent tweets about how I was a Monsanto plant and that I have a funny-looking nose. Why do I care what that a-hole thinks? I don’t, but the words he chose to express himself were upsetting nonetheless.

2. Numerous publications asked me to write for them – for free. While I don’t mind a little pro-bono work when I believe in a cause, I am also a professional writer, and I simply cannot spend all my time writing for no money. Mostly I just ended up telling them to republish the Yes! article (and a couple others I wrote), and then felt guilty for not doing more to educate people about their food.

3. People started calling me The Monsanto Girl. While a more appropriate title would have been The Nonsanto Girl, it wasn’t the monicker that bothered me so much as the creeping sensation that I would never be known as anything else. If you read my blog, you know that fiction is my true passion.

4. I was misquoted. A lot. Just for the record – the movie Food, Inc. did not inspire the project, the project was not a boycott in the traditional sense (I had no illusions that my not consuming Monsanto products would in any way make the company change its ways), and I am not an activist (at least not by any traditional definition).

5. People got really crazy about equating Monsanto with GMO and held me up as their poster girl. I actually think GMO’s may have a place in our food system, but I also believe that our government doesn’t do nearly enough (anything) to test GMO’s before they are fed to the masses and that scares me.

When I realized I was continually explaining myself and clarifying misconceptions, I decided it was time to take a step back, for the sake of my own sanity. I was in the middle of a very difficult pregnancy at the time, and I needed a little more calm in my life.

The funny thing is, the project has taken on a life of its own. I joined forces with a friend of mine who is very much into food politics, and we started the Digging Deep campaign which now has over 4,000 followers on Facebook. (My “Storyteller” Facebook page has just under 200 – you should go Like it.)

At this point I more or less feel like a traveler who strolled over a hill and happened upon a war. I fought a battle or two, then looked around, decided this was not where I wanted to die and got the ef out of there. I have immense respect and gratitude for everyone who continues to fight the good fight, and if an article I wrote two and half years ago can help spark discussion, well, I am truly honored.

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